One of the saddest conversations I had was with a friend from school when I was 19. We hadn’t
seen each other for about a year, then we happened to bump into each other at a night club. We grabbed the nearest, quietest table, and sat down to have a good old catch up!
She laughed and laughed. And teased me. But then she went very quiet and said Wow. You know what, I am actually so jealous Nat. I had sex for the first time when I was 14. I have been everywhere, done everything. I am 18 and I have nothing left to look forward to. You still have your whole life ahead of you. For me, life is boring.As the conversation progressed, we covered all bases, what have you been up to? What are you studying? Do you have a job? How is the love life? How are your folks? How is the sex life? EEK! Sex life? With bright red, ashamed cheeks, I admitted that I had nothing to contribute on that point. She was horrified. 19 and still a virgin!? Seriously??
GULP! I was horrified.
Here I was, on the cusp of life, so very much to look forward to and loving everything. And she was bored. It made me so sad. But it also made such an impact on me that I realised I was never going to allow my kids to feel that way. I would make sure they had loads to look forward to when they got out of school. And in that instant, I was so very grateful to my parents for being strict. I was never allowed anything just because my friends had it or were doing it. It drove me stark raving mad at times, and I really did get furious with them at times (as my teenage diaries so explicitly articulate!) , and I could never understand, and it was just SOOOO unfair. But that night, with the greatest clarity, I was suddenly one very grateful virgin girl.
This afternoon, as I sit here at my desk, I have a very sullen looking teenage son who is mad at me right now too. He slept at a friend’s last night why it’s called a sleepover when they were up until 3am I am not sure? and then phoned me to beg to stay another night. Our rule is only one sleepover at a time no doubles and he knows that, but It’s school weekend mom and you let Danny that one time and …. I can sleep in and and and But the answer was still no.
Does he not know that saying yes would be a hell of a lot easier?? Man I want to say yes. I want to be a cool mom, like my friend’s mom was. I want to be the fun mom, that hangs out with the kids, like my friend’s mom was. I want to say yes to everything they want. But I cant.
So my kids have annoying rules – rules that are just as annoying to us to have to implement. They are not allowed any screens in the week. They are not allowed more than one sleepover a weekend. They are not allowed a cell phone until they are 13. They are not allowed to drink Coke until they are 13, and even then not at night. They are not allowed so many things that ALL THEIR FRIENDS (apparently) are allowed. But you know what, I am ok with that. They have lots to look forward to.
It sucks to say no. It really does. Especially in front of their friends. Or worse, their friends parents. It’s awkward, and humiliating – for me at times too, because I can just see the other parents rolling their eyes at me – but one day, they will be allowed Coke, and TV whenever, and to sleep over as many nights in a row as they want. One day they will be allowed to play games that are rated above their ages now. One day they will be thankful that I was THAT mother.
Am I afraid that they will they go off the rails when they are allowed to do things, possibly. But didn’t we all in some way? Isn’t that what freedom is about? But ultimately (and research proves this), they will come back to the value system you have instilled in them, and they will learn their lessons. They will then make their own choices and become adults with their own minds, ideas and values. But if you watch closely, those values will be there, somewhere.
Don’t bow to the pressure. You are their ambassadors. You are their guides. You are responsible for being their parents. And sometimes it really does suck to say no, but if you can look down the road a little, it will be so very worth it to stick to those non-negotiables, and know that when the timing is right, they will be able to have those things. And enjoy them. I promise.